A. The word “fellowship” is one of the key words of the Gospel of Christ. It is a significant term. It covers everything that we have “in common” as Christians, everything we share, everything in which we participate.
B. The Dictionary of Mr. W. E. Vine says: “koinonía, sharing in common (koinos), participation, recognized and enjoyed friendship; thus, used of the common experiences and interests of Christians, Acts 2.42”.
C. Jude 3 speaks “of our common salvation”, the salvation that all Christians have in common.
D. Everyone knows and has experienced the desire to participate with others in certain things. The child wants to participate when he sees other children playing. Young people want to join certain sports teams and participate, take part, as members of such teams. Many want to participate as active members of a political party. In fact, there are many examples of the desire to participate in certain activities with others.
E. Therefore, our job as Christians is to produce that desire or yearning in others to participate in the many spiritual matters mentioned in the Bible.
F. We should preach and teach frequently about this topic so that this spiritual fellowship might become very dear, cherished and desired by many people.
I. TEXTS THAT USE “CO”, “CON” Y “COM” INDICATE COMMUNION (fellowship), COOPERATION (joint participation -- those things in which we share together).
A. Ephesians 2:19, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”.
B. Ephesians 3:6, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel”.
C. 2 Corinthians 8:23, “If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ”.
D. 3 John 8, “We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth”.
E. 1 Thessalonians 3:2, “and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith”.
F. Colossians 4:10, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you”.
G. Colossians 1:7, “Epaphras, our dear fellow servant”.
H. We can we say with all confidence that the members of this congregation are “partakers of the promise in Christ”, “members of the same body and heirs”, “fellow citizens”, and therefore “fellow-servants”, “fellow workers” and “partners”.
I. We must always remember the “one another” texts: “love”; “kindly affectionate”; “greet”; “caring for”; “receive”; “admonish”; “consider”; “comfort”; “bear”; “endure with”; “confess offenses”. Obviously God wants the church to be our group support and encouragement to everyone.
II. SO THAT IT MIGHT BE POSSIBLE TO HAVE EFFECTIVE AND REAL FELLOWSHIP BETWEEN BRETHREN, IT IS NECESSARY TO LOVE BRETHREN.
A. The love of God and the love of brethren constitute the very essence of the Gospel. 1 John 4:21, “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also”. It is the perfect bond of fellowship of brethren in the service of God (Colossians 3:14,15).
B. 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
C. Not only a “liar”. According to the Apostle John, the one who hates his brother is a “murderer” (3:15); walks in darkness (2:9); does not practice the truth (1:6); abides in death (3:14); is a son of the devil (3:10); and therefore God has no fellowship with him (4:17,18).
D. We have to be very careful with this. Everyone will say, “but I don’t hate my brother (sister)”. Do you know what it means to “hate”? “To have an aversion to someone”. And ¿what is aversion? “Refusal or reluctance against someone”. For example, “I do not hate him (I do not hate her), but I simply can’t stand him (I can’t stand here)”. “In the other world, I hope that my mansion is on the other side of Heaven, far away from his (her) mansion”.
III. FIRST, LET US LOOK AT THINGS IN WHICH THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD NOT PARTICIPATE.
A. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ Therefore ‘come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’”
1. Paul said this because some of the Corinthians abused their freedom and dared to sit “eating in an idol’s temple” to eat meat that had been offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:10).
2. 1 Corinthians 10:16,21, speaking of the Lord’s Supper, Paul said, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? … You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.”
B. Ephesians 5:3-7, “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.” 5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them”.
C. 1 Timothy 5:22, Don’t “share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.”.
IV. CHRISTIANS ARE PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE.
A. 2 Peter 1:3-4, “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”.
1. This is the major concern of every Christian. We want to be partakers of the divine nature. We want to be like God. Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children”.
2. Follow and imitate Christ, 1 Peter 2:22,23, “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously”.
V. MEANING OF HAVING FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD.
A. 1 John 1:3,6,7, “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. … If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
B. This means thinking God’s thoughts and walking in the ways of God. Isaiah 55:8,9, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”.
VI. MEANING OF HAVING FELLOWSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
A. 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit bewith you all. Amen”.
B. This means participation which is derived from the Holy Spirit (Vine’s Dictionary).
C. Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’”.
1. The gift of the Spirit is like the “gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8) of the “gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). It refers to what God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) gives us: salvation, redemption, reconciliation; i.e., all “spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3), the benefits related to salvation.
2. All of this is involved when people repent and are baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.
3. But unfortunately many evangelical pastors reject what Peter said, and teach that baptism is not for the forgiveness of sins. They don’t want to admit it, but in rejecting the commandment of the Holy Spirit they also reject “the gift” or “the fellowship” of the Holy Spirit. What a tragedy!
VII. IT MEANS TO HAVE FELLOWSHIP (PARTICIPATION) WITH CHRIST.
A. 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.
B. To participate in the Lord’s Supper, we have communion with the body and blood of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:16, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
1. We participate in the benefits and blessings of the sacrifice of His body and blood on the cross.
2. That is why we must always give thanks for the bread and give thanks for the cup. It is sometimes said to “pray for bread, pray for the cup”, but it is not a question of “pray” for bread and “pray” for the cup; rather, as we can see in Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians we must give thanks for the bread and give thanks for the cup as we give thanks for the food in our homes. It is the simple act of giving thanks, for the bread and the cup are “the fellowship of the body of Christ”. We should be very thankful for the supper which gives us this blessing.
C. Philippians 3:10, speaking of Christ Paul says, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and thefellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death”.
1. Because as it says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”.
2. Early Christians were persecuted severely with rods, whips, imprisonment, etc., but there are several kinds of persecution and any time Satan knows how to persecute those busy in the work of Christ to destroy the work of Satan (1 John 3:8).
VIII. HAVING FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST IMPLIES FELLOWSHIP OF MANY BLESSINGS
A. Hope. 1 Corinthians 9:22,23, “to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you”.
B. Promises. Ephesians 3:6 “hat the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel”.
C. Grace. Philippians 1:7, “just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace”.
D. Inheritance. Colossians 1:12, “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light”.
E. Heavenly calling. Hebrews 3:1, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus”.
F. Discipline. Hebrews 12:8, “But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons”. This discipline refers to suffering for the Gospel’s sake, (12:3-7; 10:32-36).
IX. WE HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH BRETHREN IN NEED WHEN WE SEND HELP FROM THE CONTRIBUTION.
A. Romans 15:26, “For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution (koinonía, a fellowship) for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem”.
B. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me”.
1. 2 Corinthians 8:3,4, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship (koinonía, having fellowship) of the ministering to the saints”.
2. There are many texts about this fellowship: Acts 2:44,45; 4:34-37 (They even sold their possessions to have everything “in common” with brethren in need); Galatians 2:10; Titus 2:14: 3:1,8,14, good works included.
X. WE HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER IN THE “MINISTRY OF THE WORK” OF EVANGELISM.
A. Philippians 1:5, Paul gave thanks to God “for your fellowship in the gospel”. 4:15,16, “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me (had fellowship with me) concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities”.
1. This church (Mable and Myers, Odessa, TX) helps with the salary of some evangelists in several countries. What does it mean? Fellowship with them. Participation with them in evangelizing, saving souls, establishing and confirming churches, training workers.
2. We take part with them when there are conversions and restorations. This fellowship is a very special privilege and for this we must contribute with all joy.
3. They send us their reports of the work and we give thanks, but we must give thanks to them for the privilege of having fellowship with them (being their companions) in the work of the Lord they do.
4. The members of this church must pray for them and write to acknowledge receipt of their reports. We must congratulate and rejoice with them when there are conversions, new churches established. The good news is that they can send their report to us in Spanish. It is sad to read requests from them to the American brethren who support them urging them to write them even in English. They want true fellowship and fellowship requires good communication.
5. Finally, fellowship with these faithful evangelists should not just be “checkbook” fellowship. I repeat: true fellowship requires good communication. We expect fellowship from them (reports) and they deserve true fellowship from us (and not just $).
B. Paul speaks much of his “fellow workers”. Romans 16:3, Aquila and Priscilla; 16:9, Urbanus, Stachys; 16:21; Philippians 2:25, Epaphroditus; 1 Thessalonians 3:2, Timothy; Philemon 24, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke.
1. This term is very important for us because there must be close communication about the activities of evangelism. We can help studying together and comparing opportunities to teach (above all weekly home studies): how to arrange such studies; how to answer excuses; issues that arise; refutation of arguments; comparing the reaction of different people; how to persuade, etc.
2. 3 John 8, “that we may become fellow workers for the truth”. This is a very beautiful and very practical thought. We must cooperate and help in this work. We can do it and we should do it. Having the help of the other brethren in this work encourages and motivates to move forward and not to be discouraged.
XI. UNFORTUNATELY SOME BROTHERS LEAVE THIS FELLOWSHIP AND RETURN TO THE WORLD.
A. 2 Peter 2:20,22, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning… But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘a dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire’”.
B. Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted”.
1. Many texts teach us that the spiritually minded (faithful brethren) must teach, exhort, rebuke, and encourage the weakest and, above all, to those who are caught in a fault, to be faithful and to restore them when they stumble.
2. To do this, the spiritually minded should call them, visit them, eat with them, pray with them, doing everything possible to make your restoration. They must find them as the shepherd seeks the lost sheep.
3. The church does not obey the commandment of Galatians 6:1 simply saying, “What happened to you?” or “Why didn’t you attend?” or “You shouldn’t miss”, etc. It is action that is not to be carried out lightly; rather it requires an intensive effort and with much prayer.
C. However, if unfaithful and disorderly members refuse the efforts of spiritual brothers and they are determined to leave the church and return to the world, then the church has very clear and explicit instructions concerning him to save his soul and keep the purity of the church. This plan of salvation is as clear as the plan of salvation to the unconverted.
1. Matthew 18:15-17, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” It would have been unthinkable that a Jew associated (much less to eat) with a Gentile or publican; in this way Jesus teaches us that we must not eat with brother when the church obeys the commandment of “avoiding him.”
2. Romans 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them”.
3. 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14, “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us… And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.”. Here it should be stressed that members who cease to attend the meetings of the Church walk disorderly because they disobey Hebrews 10:24,25; 1 Corinthians 11:24; 16:1,2 and other texts.
4. In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul speaks of a fornicating brother that the church had not disciplined. Says in v. 5, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus”. In his conduct this brother was serving Satan and the church should point it out or publicly identify him as a servant of Satan or citizen of the kingdom of Satan and avoid him to effect the destruction of his carnal passions and save his soul.
5. 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul says, “do not associate with” (“don’t mix with”, “don’t keep company with”, “don’t have company with”; “don’t associate with”), and to be more specific he adds, v. 11, “not even to eat with such a person”. With such don’t even eat (sunesthio). This word sunesthio is found in Luke 15:2; Acts 10:41; 11:3; Galatians 2:12 and is used of a ordinary meal. It is never used of eating the Lord’s Supper.
6. 1 Corinthians 5:11, “don’t associate with anyone who, calling himself brother, that is fornicator, etc.” The word “calling” translates the word onomazómenos that means “called” (Luke 6:13, “He chose twelve whom He also named apostles”; Ephesians 1:21, “every name that is named”). It simply means “to call” or “name”; it does not mean to fake or pretend to be brother. 2 Thessalonians 3:6, “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly…” Here it does not say “calling himself a brother” but simply “brother”.
7. The commandment of Paul of to depart from him or not to join together with him, and even eat with him is clear, simple and understandable. It means plain and simply that members of the church are not to be associated with him (as the Bible of the Americas says): “Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14).
8. The act of socially departing from this brother is not act of hate or rancor. It is not vindictive, but act of love to save his soul. “Strong love” is like the love of parents who truly love their children. It is the plan of salvation, to repent and be baptized is to be saved from past sins.
9. Such a brother would like to have the best of two worlds. He returned to the world because he wants the “friendship with the world” (James 4:4). He wants the friendship of the world and also the friendship of the Church. Acts 2:46 says that the brethren ate together in homes with joy and although some members return again to the world they miss the joy of eating together in harmony with brethren and they want to continue this association. His wants the friendship of the world and also the friendship of the church is precisely what Paul forbids. As a member of the church he enjoys the affection of other members and if possible he would like to continue enjoying it. But Jesus says emphatically that “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24) and “who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matthew 12:30). Also if other members continue associating with him so he can enjoy the world and also the church, he will never be humbled to repent. Why humble himself or be ashamed, having friendship and joy with the world and having friendship and joy with the brothers, he has the best of two worlds. Therefore, the members that are associating with him are defeating the God of plan to shame him (2 Thessalonians 3:14). The final result: unfaithful brother is lost and the members who followed by associating with him are responsible.
10. This commandment, “withdraw yourselves”, is for all members. If some members do not accept this teaching, the effort of the members fails because the chain is no stronger than the weakest link.
11. Why is this discipline effective? The brothers are to make him to see that they can’t even eat with him, and that hurts. It is to humble him. It is to make him to see that apart from admonishing him with words about the judgment and hell, Christians can have nothing to do with him. He is isolated from the company of the church. Is like the prodigal, eating with the pigs and remembered that “many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!”
12. This plan of God worked in Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:6,7) and it can work in any church of Christ who are willing to submit to God and practice the will (the ways) of Him in place of walking in their own ways (Isaiah 55:8,9).